Saturday 26 April 2014

Penguins And Peace: The Rise Of Craftivism

Knitters have long been known for their generosity and links with charity. Many a school fete or church fair have seen donations of knitted toys, and development charities have long relied on knitted jumpers, hats and blankets for children in Africa. We knitters love caring and creating things for others.

In the last few years this has taken on a new turn. Knitters are now using their skills not only to donate to charity but to raise awareness of social causes and generally try to make the world a better place. Betsy Greer, author of Knitting for Good!, invented the term craftivism to describe this phenomenon.

Photo courtesy of the Penguin Foundation
Facebook users couldn't help but have seen pretty pictures of penguins wearing knitted jumpers recently. Australia's Penguin Foundation's plea for donations of knitted jumpers to put on penguins affected by an oil spill, to prevent them preening and swallowing toxic oil, went viral. Millions of people around the world became aware of the effects of oil spills on wildlife, and as well as picking up their knitting needles raised their voices for environmental causes. The Penguin Foundation's appeal was so successful that it now has a good supply.

Back in the UK a relatively new charity, Knit for Peace, launched with the ambition of "encouraging women and men from different, often historically hostile, communities to come together informally to knit". The charity is aware of knitting's therapeutic properties and that it's a craft that can be enjoyed across the age spectrum. Knit for Peace's social activist policies bring people together across traditionally-divided communities.

Last year I took a trip to Richard Branson of Virgin fame's hotel in Morocco - Kasbah Tamadot. Not far from the hotel in the Atlas Mountains is a charitable foundation set up by Richard's mother, Eve Branson. The Eve Branson Foundation works with local communities where girls leave school earlier than their Western counterparts and expect to marry young and work in the home. Eve has set up a craft school where these girls can come to learn craft skills to a professional standard, including knitting, and sell their work to earn an income. The girls learn English and benefit from the camaraderie in a community that historically has placed limitations on their aspirations.

Knitting to raise awareness of a social cause is set to boom, making knitting an active, rather than passive hobby. Do you know of any craftivism projects in your locality? If so, please do let me know.

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